The Lost Vedic River Sarasvati, Part 3


BY: SUN STAFF - 1.10 2020

Current headwaters of Saraswati River at Badrinatha

A serial presentation of writings about the sacred River Sarasvati.

Following is a summary of references to the River Sarasvati found in the Rigveda, beginning with a general description. In the RigVedic times, it was a mighty river flowing from the mountains to the sea (giribhyah asamudrat, RV 7.95.2). The abundance and tremendous force of its water had an enchanting impact on the minds of the poets who repeatedly described it as:

'abounding in waters' (maho-arnah, RV 1.3.12)

'flowing rapidly' (pra-sasre, RV 7.95.1); according to Sayana, pradhvati sighram gachchhati

'moving fautlessly' (akuvari, RV 7.96.3); Sayana's rendering: akutsitagamana

'possessing unlimited strength' (yasyah amah ananto, RV 6.61.8); in the words of Sayana, yasyah balam aparyanto-aparaimitah

'roaring' (charati roruvat, RV 6.61.8); bhrisam sabdam kurvan vartate, according to Sayana

'fierce' (ghora, RV 6.61.7); Sayana's interpretation: Satrunam bhayakarini

'the most impetuous of all other streams' (apasam-apastama, RV 6.61.13); Sayana's interpretation: vegavatinam nadinam madhye vegavattama

The material and spiritual benefits the River Sarasvati brought to the people is reflected in several epithets attributed to her, for example:

'rich in grains' (Vajinivati, RV 7.96.3); Sayana renders the term as annavati

'strong in wealth and power' (vajeshu vajini, RV, 6.61.6)

'having golden path' (hiranyavartanih, RV 6.61.7)

'promoter of the welfare of the five peoples' (panchajata vardhayanti, RV 6.61.12)

'the purest of all rivers' (nadinam suchiryati, RV 7.95.2)

'auspicious' (RV 7.96.3)

'inspirer of those who delight in truth' (sunritanam chodayitri, RV 1.3.11)

'the instructor of the right minded' (sumatinam chetanti, RV 1.3.11), etc.


Map of Sapta Sindhu (Nation of Seven Rivers), Marius Fontane, 1881


The Rigveda also provides a description of the kind of people (good as well as bad, in the eyes of the rishis) settled in the Sarasvati Valley and neighbouring regions:

Purus, who, according to the text, dwelt 'in fullness of their strength', on the both the grassy banks of Sarasvati (RV 7.96.2)

Bharatas, whose king Vadhryasva is said to have begotten Divodasa by Sarasvati's grace (RV 6.61.1) and whose princes are found performing yajnas on the banks of Sarasvati, Drishadvati and Apaya (RV 3.23.4)

Pancha-janah ( the five peoples), that is, Anus, Druhyus, Yadus, Turvasas and Purus, whose welfare the Sarasvati had increased (RV 6.61.12)

Nahushas, descendents of Nahusha, on whom the Sarasvati had poured her benefits (RV 7.95.2)

Panis, the 'churlish … (misers), thinking only of themselves' whom the Sarasvati consumed (RV 6.61.1)

Paravatas, who were destroyed by the Sarasvati (RV 6.61.2)

Brisyas, whom the Sarasvati rooted out (RV 6.61.3)

Thus, we have a realistic picture in the Rigveda of a mighty and highly glorified river named Sarasvati descending from the Himalayas, flowing majestically and emptying into the sea, with names of the people living on its banks and in its valley. The fact that river was later lost in the sands of the desert at a place called Vinasana (literally 'disappearance') is also attested to by the literature(Panchvimsa Brahmana 25.10.6; Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana, 4.26, etc.) There is absolutely no ambiguity in descriptions, no room for any controversy, yet an effort has been made by certain scholars to hijack the river out of India.